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Eagles open Beach Tourney with split

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
When Brandon Douglas launched a foul popup between home plate and third base, it looked as if the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles had squandered their last chance to win the game in regulation.
When the popup was dropped in foul territory, Douglas got a second chance. The W.S. Neal senior took advantage of it when he ripped an RBI double in the top of the seventh inning that stood up as the game-winner in the Blue Eagles 7-6 victory over the Citronelle Wildcats in Monday's opening round of the Gulf Shores Tournament.
W.S. Neal was unable to make it two in row in Monday's second game of its pool played at the Robertsdale site when it fell to the Southside (Tenn.) Hawks 4-2.
Senior Daniel Hodge helped the Blue Eagles (5-8) overcome six first game errors with both his arm and his bat.
Hodge, who has seen limited mound duty this spring, went five and two-thirds solid innings to net the win. Hodge scattered seven hits and worked around four unearned runs.
Hodge's bat was a big reason the Blue Eagles were able to work their way back from a 3-0 deficit Citronelle built in the first three innings. Hodge, who lacked only the triple from hitting for the cycle, gave W.S. Neal a much needed spark in the top of the fifth inning when he followed a single by Justin Smith with a two-run homer that trimmed the Wildcats' lead to 3-2.
Hodge's homer started a four-run rally by the Blue Eagles that gave W.S. Neal a 4-3 lead. After the homerun, Jake Smith reached on an infield error, Spencer Williamson had a single and Jared Cooper walked to load the bases. Chad McCall hit into a fielder's choice, but that plated Smith with the tying run. Whitney Qualls struck out, but a wild pitch brought in Cooper with the go-ahead run.
W.S. Neal extended that advantage by a couple of runs in the top of the sixth inning. Douglas started the trouble with a single and Hodge added to his big day with a double. After Jake Smith walked to load the bases, Williamson lashed a two-run single that made it 6-3.
Citronelle got to a tiring Hodge in the bottom of the sixth inning. A hit batsman, two singles, a walk, an infield error and another hit batter added up to three Citronelle runs and tied the game at 6-6. It also ended Hodge's day on the mound. Douglas took over for Hodge with the go-ahead runner on base and preserved the deadlock when he got the third out of the inning on a strikeout.
W.S. Neal's winning run in the seventh reached base when Qualls walked to start the frame. After the next two batters were retired, Douglas came through with the two-out, RBI double after the dropped foul popup.
Douglas' RBI produced the win for himself on the mound. Douglas was able to work around a pair of one-out walks in the bottom of the seventh inning, as he struck out the side including the final two Citronelle hitters.
Douglas came back in game two and went the distance. Like many of his games this spring, the righthander had some impressive numbers. Douglas allowed just four hits and struck out eight to finish the day with 12 whiffs in seven and a third innings only to fall victim to defense and a lack of run support.
Errors factored into two of the four Southside runs and W.S. Neal only hit three balls out of the infield the entire game. The Blue Eagles also lost three runners on the bases and had another wiped out through a double play.
Southside (8-2) got a leadoff double by Derek Blackwood in the bottom of the first inning. Dropped flyballs on balls hit by Scott Dean and Jim Evans allowed Blackwood to score.
Southside gave that run back to the Blue Eagles in the top of the second inning. Jared Cooper singled with one out and surprised the Hawks' defense when he stole second base. With two out, Deric Smith lined a shot off Blackwood, the Southside pitcher, for an infield hit. On the play, the Hawks third baseman tried to get Smith at first base only to throw the ball away. That error allowed Cooper to score the tying run.
The deadlock did not last long. An infield error followed by a two-run homer by Tyree Jeffries in the bottom of the second inning put Southside back in front again 3-1.
The Hawks made it 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning when a walk and an infield single set up a sacrifice fly by Dean.
The Blue Eagles were able to cut into that lead in the top of the sixth inning without the aid
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of a hit. Douglas and Jake Smith both walked. An error allowed Douglas to take third base and he scored on a wild pitch that made it 4-2.
W.S. Neal, which battled Shoals Christian Tuesday,
concludes its portion of pool play today against
Robertsdale at 3 p.m. That game will be at Robertsdale High School.
The championship round of the tournament will be Thursday at Gulf Shores.
Game one
W.S. Neal 000 042 1 – 7 8 6
Citronelle 102 003 0 – 6 7 3
Game two
W.S. Neal 010 001 0 – 2 6 3
Southside 120 010 X – 4 4 2